For me, horror is about the moment the killer takes out their knife and light gleams off the blade. In theaters I squirm, rocking between my armrests because it’s clear the knife is going into someone soon. That tension is what keeps me coming back again and again. I couldn’t care less about the stabbing itself or the gore.

In his feature length directorial debut Naciye (trailer here), Lütfü Emre Çiçek gives viewers plenty of the knife unsheathing and plenty of stabbing, telling the story of a woman who refuses to leave her family home and the couple who tries to move in.

Naciye does two things extremely well in the first fifteen minutes. There’s a simple but fantastic scene where a realtor walks into to Naciye’s (Derya Alabora) house. She’s in the corner closest to the door and he walks by without noticing her. She’s knitting, staring him down from behind. He chatters on the phone, oblivious. The audience knows she’s there though, and Alabora exudes a sense of menace. There’s no question that this could end very badly for the realtor if he doesn’t turn around. It’s the kind of moment I watch horror movies for, and Çiçek draws it out. Throughout the movie, Çiçek introduces danger like this and then makes the audience wait. The lingering in moments of dread are the best part of Naciye.  

The other thing he does extremely well early on is establishing an atmosphere where anything can happen. Something horrific happens to someone who the camera followed long enough that they feel as though they’re an important, if not the main, character. After that every moment has real stakes. Anything can, and does, happen to anyone in the world of Naciye. No one is safe.  

The chaotic atmosphere can be a problem at times, as well. Films rely on concrete real-world details to ground their viewers. While most audiences will accept the fantasticdemons possessing children, cars exploding after collisions—they need the story around it to feel real. Different people need different levels of realism to immerse, and this may be a personal sensitivity, but Naciye wakes me up with the way the couple move into the house.

Bertan (Görkem Mertsöz) rents Naciye’s house for himself and Bengi (Esin Harvey) but when they arrive he doesn’t know where anything is. He’s surprised to find the previous tenant left things, but proceeds to use them anyway. It is abundantly clear that he has never been to the house, possibly never seen photos of it. Why would any person in any reality rent a house they’ve never seen? And as the movie continues, Çiçek implies that at least one other family has done this as well. I had trouble sympathizing with the characters from that point forward. Anyone who would rent a house that haphazardly has chosen their own destiny and they have chosen poorly.

The movie also has some scenes that were too dark to tell what was happening. Considering the film was reveling in the tension of the audience knowing things that the characters didn’t, the darkness seriously hampered some of the later scenes.

Naciye works despite these things though. It’s a sordid tale of a woman who refuses to leave her home and the things she does to the people who try to move in. The cinematography is good and the soundtrack is excellent. Çiçek is certainly a name to watch in the future.

Wicked Rating: 6/10

Director: Lütfü Emre Çiçek
Writers: Lütfü Emre Çiçek
Stars: Derya Alabora, Esin Harvey, Görkem Mertsöz  
Studio/ Production Co: Sonby Sanat Ve Produksiyon
Release date: April 11th, 2017 (DVD U.S.)
Language: Turkish
Length: 81 min